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How To Contract a Secondary Wedding Photographer

Wedding Ceremony by Trifon Anguelov Photography

No doubt, every wedding or event photographer has been using or is thinking to use the help of a secondary photographer. Having one on a 10 hours long wedding or a wedding when more than 200 guests are invited, it is simply invaluable. The second shooter is not simply another camera body and lens on the wedding. He or she is going to help you save your energy by not having to run everywhere and endure the entire stress of photographing the wedding day by yourself.

By having someone else being at the cocktail hour and photographing the reception venue and guests socializing at the reception, while you as a primary photographer working with the bride and groom on their portraits, is simply utilizing your time and talent appropriately.

Besides the fact that a second photographer would allow you to capture images from two places at the same time, he or she are also indispensable for capturing the wedding events from a different angles. Many churches restrict the movement during the ceremony and having a second shooter would allow you to get both the groom expression when he sees the bride entering the church and the bride and her dad walking down the aisle to the altar.

Lastly, having someone with spare camera body, set of lenses to borrow in case yours fail for whatever reason is never a bad idea. The second photographer can also give you a hand while setting the lights for the wedding reception or help you tear them down after the end of the wedding. With all these benefits of course, there lies the potential of misunderstandings and conflict of interest if the terms of the working relationship are not well-defined.

Here are few for example to get your head spinning:
•    The copyright law in USA gives the image taker (the person who pressed the shutter button) the copyright of the images, so technically the second shooter can prevent the primary shooter (completely legally) from using his images in any shape or form
•    The second shooter can leak the wedding images on his Facebook site and tag the bride and groom even before the primary photographer has a chance to show them the images. He took the images and what harm a bit of self-promotion can do?
•    Nothing stops the second shooter from passing his business card to all of the wedding guests and offering competitive prices to yours. What is the whole fuss about it? The primary photographer already has tons of clients and need the second photographer’s help. Why not relieve his pain and serve some of his clients?

Well these are just few potential issues you might run into when hiring a secondary wedding photographer if you don’t have a contract with well-defined terms and signed by the second shooter. Below are the areas you should consider addressing into the contract:

•    Wedding Details:

Most likely you have asked your wedding clients to provide you with details about their wedding as location, start and end times, names of wedding coordinator and point of contact on the wedding day. Just because you have this information and know it, it doesn’t mean your second shooter would magically read your mind and have it as well. Small section in your contract for these details would go a long way to make sure your second wedding photographer knows enough about the day and venues to do his / her job as you might expect.

•    Compensation:

Listing the compensation amount and payment terms into the contract is a good idea. Are you going to cover any travel expenses, food allowance or is the second shooter going to get a meal at the wedding? Including these into the contract would help the second shooter understand how is he or she going to get paid and how much.

•    Minimum Number Of Images:

If you expect from the second shooter to deliver a specific number of images for the time he or she is contracted, then list it into your contract. This way the second photographer would be aware and understand before the wedding how many images are expected. If you expect at least 50-70 images per hour of shooting time, then specify that clearly.

•    List of Expected Images:

Many primary wedding photographers have a specific list of images they expect from their second shooters but fail to mention them or discuss them with the second shooter. Vague descriptions as ‘Go at the reception hall and take decoration images” or “Get me some ring and shoes images” might mean enough for you but imagine how a second shooter might interpret this. If you have a specific list of images you expect, list them into your contract so there are no misunderstandings later.

•    Image Quality:

If you have any (most likely you have) image quality requirements, make sure they are specifically listed. Are you OK with images having -2EV or +2EV exposure variance from the proper exposure level? Are you looking for artistic or formal images? Candid or Camera Aware images? Overexposed with flares and light leaks images? Use few words to describe this to the second shooter and I can assure you both of you would be having a much better long-lasting working relationship.

•    Post-Processing: 

If you expect the second shooter “to call the keepers” and deliver only the workable images but no out-of-focus, misfires or badly composed images, add his to your contract. If you are OK with full dump of all images taken during the event and you prefer to do the selection, then you can ask for all the images.

•    Contracting Terms:

This one is for the lawyers but important to have in your secondary wedding photography contract.  Mentioning that you are hiring the second shooter as an independent contractor and not offering any long-term employment contract whatsoever, is a good idea. If you operate in USA, you might have to issue IRS 1099 Form and report the payments you have made.

•    Delivery Schedule:

Defining the deadline for the second shooter to deliver the images to you sets clear date for you to receive the images. If you have a deadline you have to deliver the wedding images to your client, you will need to receive the images and to be able to see the final set before starting the post-process.

•    Client Privacy:

You are responsible for protecting and ensuring the privacy of your clients is protected. Many wedding photography contracts has this clause and you as primary photographer who signed a contract with your clients, are liable if their privacy is breached. Define what you expect from the second shooter. Can he blog or post on Facebook the names of your clients, their religion, address or any personal details? This is something to take seriously.

•    Solicitation:

Most likely you don’t want the second shooter to distribute his or her contact information to all the wedding gusts or to solicit clients on the wedding you have booked and hired him to help you with. It’s common courtesy you might think, but are you going to be protected without a specific clause in your contract? If in doubt, add a clause.

•    Business Confidentiality:

Hiring someone not directly involved into your business would reveal some of your business practices, pricing and techniques. Do you feel comfortable of these secrets being freely shared with anyone the second photographer knows or you would require to keep them private and not shared with anyone? Detailing what could be shared by the second shooter and what not in your contract is a good idea.

•    Images Copyright:

The copyright in USA gives image creator (in the case of film and digital photography, the person who presses the shutter button) the copyright of the images he or she takes. The second shooter would take many images on the wedding. Unless, you ask him to revoke his copyright on the images and transfer it to you, you might be liable if using his or her images without explicit permission. Also you will produce prints and albums with his or her images. Are you going to pay for the copyright to have each image published? Leaving this undefined will make you vulnerable to future disputes.

•    Blackout Period:

Are you thinking to offer the second photographer an opportunity to use the images for their own portfolio, on their Facebook page or promotion instead of payment? If so, you as primary photographer who booked the wedding and suppose to provide the images to your client, don’t want these images to be published or be distributed before you had a chance to present them to the client, right? If so, then clearly mention in your contract how long the secondary photographer is not allowed to publish or use the images. 60 to 90 days blackout period is not uncommon.

•    Prints and Reproduction:

This one is related to the previous one somehow. This clause would prevent the second photographer from offering prints from his images to your clients, producing album or any other type of profiting from the images. If you don’t want your client to receive prints offers from your second shooter on cheaper prices than yours or no offers at all, having this term specified in your contract is a must.

•    Equipment Loan Details:

If you plan to load any equipment to the secondary photographer (camera body, lenses, flashes, company car), make sure you list these and their condition into the contract. Do you expect them returned into the condition you have loaned them? How would you handle any potential damages, or lost? It’s good for both of you to know that in advance.


I am sure I have missed some of the terms or points a perfect second photographer contract should have but the above should give you a good list of areas to add to your contract. I am neither a lawyer nor have a law degree, so consult your legal adviser or lawyer to draft the final contract.

I also understand that some primary photographers pick a second photographer based on mutual friendship and well established trust and are not going to consider to hire someone they cannot trust. So if some of the terms sound too demanding and you believe might cast a shadow of mistrust on the second shooter, ask your self:

  • Is the business I have worked so hard to establish and grow can be impacted by any damage the secondary shooter can do to my client or my business?
  • Do I feel OK with being unprotected and not having the legal grounds to correct improper behavior or defend my business?

While you will hire a secondary photographer for the mutually beneficial and professional relationship, having well-defined grounds for this relationship would be a great peace of mind for both you and the second photographer.

I hope you found this article useful and easy to read. If you think this information might be useful to anyone who is planning to hire a secondary photographer, please share it by using the multiple sharing options on the bottom. Agree, disagree, have comments or feedback? Think I am missing a point or two or three? Drop me a line in the comments section and I will consider adding it (with full credit to you, of course).

About the author:

Trifon Anguelov Photography is a premiere wedding and events photography business  based in Mountain View, CA 94040 and serving clients in San Francisco Bay Area, CA. To learn more about the services I offer, visit my Wedding Packages page. You can read more about the author on his Wedding Photography Site.